VISTA HIGH’S YESSICA VARGAS RECEIVES DON DIEGO SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION’S TOP $10,000 AWARD
Del Mar, CA … It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Don Diego Scholarship Foundation’s recipient of its highest $10,000 award that her first name begins with the letters YES, because the words “I can’t” are not in the vocabulary of Vista High School graduating senior Yessica Vargas.
Yessica received the 2016 Don Diego $5,000 FFA college scholarship plus the special $5,000 Spanjian Family scholarship. She will use the funds to major in Liberal Studies at Cal State San Marcos on her way toward earning a teaching credential, followed by a master’s in Agriculture Business.
Yessica says that an internship at Bobier Elementary School’s Migrant Education Program sparked her interest in teaching: “I recognized I had a passion for teaching once I was capable of tutoring numerous students who struggle in their education.”
One of nine children, Yessica’s passion for agriculture was initiated by an older brother’s participation in FFA. She recalls, “I was so eager throughout my eighth-grade year to sign up for my first agriculture class. Once I was an active member, I began to attend every single ‘ag’tivity. I participated in public speaking contests, judging teams and leadership conferences. I became an officer and raised diversified livestock.”
Until recently, Yessica was not able to show animals at the San Diego County Fair due to the considerable financial challenges involved, which include not only the purchase but also ongoing care requirements of an animal. In 2015, FFA’s Sergeant Haygood generously sponsored Yessica’s participation and she was able to show her Berkshire pig as well as three California rabbits. She says, “Without the help of my sponsor, I would not have had the opportunity for this unforgettable moment.”
Yessica also credits her teacher and role model, Vista High Agriscience Department Chair and FFA Advisor Sara Benner, for helping her develop her skills and get acclimated to large animals, starting with her first big heifer.
Praise for Yessica Vargas abounds. Noting her nearly 4.0 GPA and many extracurricular and community service activities, Benner says, “Yessica’s exceptional character, dedication, resilience and perseverance enabled her to get where she is today.” Yessica’s AFJROTC Instructor, Colonel Vincent Lostetter, Jr., concurs, stating, “This young woman exemplifies the exceptional character our country thirsts for in our leaders.” Vista Unified School District Superintendent Devin Vodicka, Ed.D., believes, “Yessica is an amazing student with a very bright future.”
Yessica Vargas sees herself as a doer. She says, “Everything I do, I do because I have a passion for it. Once I commit to something, I always complete it. I am truly blessed to have been awarded these two Don Diego scholarships; the money will change my entire university experience. I am thankful for all who helped me along the way and I am eager to give back to my community.”
Don Diego Executive Director Chana Mannen reveals that this year’s scholarship process was particularly competitive. “Dozens of students applied. There was not a single application that was not worthy of a scholarship. Selecting this year’s 12 recipients was challenging. Yet, when the time came to award the special, additional $5,000 Spanjian scholarship, the vote was unanimous: Yessica Vargas.”
According to Mannen, “2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Don Diego Scholarship Foundation, which is grounded in our region’s rich agricultural history. Programs such as Vista’s and instructors such as Sara Benner are key to preserving and perpetuating this important segment of our area’s economy. For 18 years, Mrs. Benner has inculcated leadership qualities in hundreds of students while fostering a love of agricultural pursuits. In addition to Yessica, Don Diego’s 2015 FFA $5,000 scholarship recipient, Vista High’s Amy Wehner, benefitted from Mrs. Benner’s wisdom, enthusiasm and support in Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs).”
Annual Don Diego scholarships are open to San Diego County high school seniors who have participated in the San Diego County Fair and/or other activities associated with the Del Mar Fairgrounds. To obtain information on the other eleven 2016 scholarship recipients, to learn more about the program, or to purchase tickets to the June 30, 2016 Dinner and Concert Gala at the Fair at which the recipients will be honored, visit www.dondiegoscholarship.org.
The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation was named for Don Diego, AKA Tom Hernandez, who served as the Fair’s welcoming goodwill ambassador from 1947-1984. Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has awarded approximately $797,000 in scholarships to 177 students and in agriculture grants that currently support the San Diego County Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat program, which teaches elementary students about agriculture and nutrition in a fun, hands-on way. Information on Don Diego’s history and the Foundation’s current programs and donation opportunities is at www.dondiegoscholarship.org and www.facebook.com/DonDiegoScholarship.
The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation◦ 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Del Mar, CA 92014
858-792-4210 ◦ www.dondiegoscholarship.org